Cell phone towers are ubiquitous. So are all kinds of other electronic devices that emit radio frequencies like toys, garage door openers and even wireless doorbells. That sort of technology is everywhere, and it improves our everyday way of life, but there are some areas of the country where these devices are not welcome and even illegal.
Tucked away in the mountains of West Virgina is the Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort. A place that attracts many ski enthusiasts to test their skills on their many challenging hills. With those tourists come all sorts of devices such as cell phones, laptops, kindles and all kinds of other technologies that use wireless technology. This influx of technology would not be a problem, but this resort is situated within The National Radio Quiet Zone. In the middle of this zone sits a high powered telescope called the National Radio Astronomy site. This telescope has extremely sensitive receptors used to look into the outer reaches of the universe. It also has sensitive equipment that tries to listen to the possible transmissions of alien life forms that could be out there just waiting to communicate with us. Unfortunately, it is so delicate that it can be fried by the slightest radio frequency emitted just miles away. The combination of sensitive equipment and the influx of devices has created an interesting problem. How to allow the latest technology into the area without damaging this sensitive telescope?
This was the problem of senior radio access engineer Stephen Little of AT&T. Little and his crew began to build low-frequency towers that had very low height. They built a lot of these structures to lessen the length of distance that a cell phone transmission needed to go. Limiting the length of distance as well as keeping the signals low to the ground eliminates the problems of cell phone communication interfering with the telescope. In an era where companies brag about the power and size of their cell phone towers, AT&T is proud of Steven Little’s solution to this interesting problem.
Despite this breakthrough, the rest of Pocahontas County West Virgina is still like taking a trip back a few decades. Cell phones and some other technology are strictly prohibited and are not likely to change anytime soon. At least resort patrons can post their stem christies to facebook and twitter, and not interfere with scientists examining the mysteries of the universe.